ICMI’12 write-up

About three weeks ago I was in sunny California, Santa Monica to be precise, at the International Conference on Multimodal Interaction (ICMI). The position paper about my PhD work was accepted at the doctoral consortium, which included a presentation at a full-day session prior to the conference, and an afternoon poster session during the main conference.

The doctoral consortium (DC) event was a great experience, especially considering the relatively early stages of my current PhD work. I got some really useful comments from the participants of the DC. Especially Francis Quek from Virginia Tech had some excellent constructive feedback about my current work on mediated touch. His main point was that the context in which the touch occurs is of vital importance for the meaning that can be perceived in the touch. Though my work has currently focussed on decontextualized studies of hardware prototypes, I wholeheartedly agree with Francis’ view and hope to investigate the role of remote touch in different contexts in the future. At the poster session I received some other useful comments about the potential application of touch in games. Another interesting remark was that the way people use tactile technology for remote touch may be different from the way touch occurs between people in real life. This would be similar to people talking differently on the phone, when compared to talking face-to-face. So lots to think about regarding my research!

Besides the DC, the rest of the conference was great as well. The nice thing about a single-track conference is that you don’t have to pick the sessions you want to go to. This means that sometimes you listen to talks that, on the basis of their title, you wouldn’t normally go to. This way I listened to some pretty cool talks on human behavior analysis and human-robot interaction. As far as the keynotes go, my favorite one was definitely the one from Ivan Poupyrev of Disney Research. He presented some amazing work on haptics and new applications of 3D printing. One of the things that stood out was Disney Revel, a method for rendering haptic textures on objects using a technique similar to  Disney Touché. After the keynote I had the opportunity to talk to Ivan for a bit. He showed some videos of Touché being used for interactive plants (actual plants) in Disney theme parks, and he talked about his ideas for a Disney space program. Maybe now that Disney holds the licenses to Star Wars, that doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched idea anymore.

And if you thought Santa Monica was nice: the next ICMI will be in Sidney Australia. Which, I’ve been told, is rather pleasant in December.